Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have always been mavericks on the Met Gala red carpet—never too on the nose when it comes to the theme. The keen Olsen observer would also know that the sisters often wear vintage on the red carpet, and they’re two of the few celebs who do. This habit began at their first appearance at the gala in 2005, when the Costume Institute exhibit honored Chanel: Neither sister wore something from the French house. They were still freshmen at New York University, and Mary-Kate opted for a vintage slip while Ashley wore a new strapless Oscar de la Renta gown that looked as if it was made from gold leaf, which she belted with a baby pink ribbon. The Olsens have almost always shown up to the museum steps in something old, whether it be the dreamy orange vintage Dior gown that Ashley wore in 2013, or the matching black leather Chanel outfits that they wore last year.
Spotting a vintage dress at the Met Gala is rarer than you might think. Aside from the few standout examples in years past, like Anne Hathaway’s black vintage Valentino gown from 2013 or Lily-Rose Depp’s slinky, vintage Chanel haute couture number from last year, there aren’t too many celebrities who decide to pull from the archive for the fundraiser. At the Rei Kawakubo exhibit in 2017, few attendees even wore Comme des Garçons, let alone an archival piece—Tracee Ellis Ross wore a high-neck, midnight blue CDG dress from the spring 2016 collection and Michèle Lamy wore a billowing red one from the brand’s fall 2016 collection (which she pulled from her personal collection, no less). Mary-Kate and Ashley have committed, year after year, to wearing something old.
As always, they’re ahead of the curve. In the last awards season, there was a push for celebrities to rewear their old gowns to new events. Joaquin Phoenix wore the same Stella McCartney tuxedo to every awards show, and Elizabeth Banks wore the plunging, bright red Badgley Mischka dress that she debuted at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in 2004 to the very same party 16 years later.
The Met Gala, though, is usually rarefied ground—if a celebrity was going to wear something new and extravagant to any event of the year, it would likely be on the Met steps. For an event where most celebrities are getting their gowns custom made for the occasion, the Olsens prove that there’s just as much standout fashion potential to be found deep in the archive.
Ashley Olsen in vintage Dior at the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Met Gala in 2011.Photo: Getty Images / Kevin MazurMary-Kate Olsen in vintage Givenchy haute couture at the 2011 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Kevin MazurMary-Kate Olsen in a vintage Chanel slip dress and a vintage Balmain robe coat at the 2013 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Dimitrios KambourisAshley in vintage Dior at the “Punk: Chaos to Couture” Met Gala in 2013.Photo: Getty Images / Jennifer GraylockMary-Kate in vintage Gianfranco Ferré and Ashley in vintage Chanel at the 2014 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Kevin MazurMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in vintage John Galliano for Christian Dior at the 2015 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Axelle/Bauer-GriffinMary-Kate and Ashley in vintage Paco Rabanne at the 2018 “Heavenly Bodies” Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Neilson BarnardMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in vintage Chanel at the 2019 Met Gala.Photo: Getty Images / Neilson Barnard